I’m sitting in my home office, snowed in by a blizzard, which puts the exclamation point on this sentence: The local fishing season is over! My only recourse now is to surf cast into a nearby powerplant outflow when it gets REALLY cold. The stripers go there to stay warm, but the angler certainly doesn’t. Luckily, I am going fishing in Texas next week for speckled trout and redfish.
Right now, I am looking through my photo album to remember some of the better days I’ve had this year. I’m looking at the picture of a peacock bass I caught in South Florida just west of Ft. Lauderdale. I caught it walking the shores of a small residential lake system with my five-weight fly rod. I caught it a using chartreuse and white streamer fly I tied with synthetic super-hair for just this occasion. I caught 22 others that day.
This is noteworthy because, two years ago, a significant number of peacock bass in this area died in a cold snap. The peacocks, imported from South America, can’t stand the water to dip below 70 degrees. (I think. I’ll have to fact check the actual temp.) That almost never happens in South Florida near Ft. Lauderdale and points South, but it did then.
I started fishing for the peacocks in 1999, when a friend introduced me to them on a work trip. At the time, we had success catching two or three here and there, but we were fishing for them as we would largemouth. Going out at dawn and dusk, using poppers. Then on one trip, I visited a local fly shop, where the owner told me to fish during the heat of the day, using streamers with chartreuse or bright green coloring. He sold me a few snook flies. I went in the heat of an early-fall Florida day, when the temperatures hit the low 90s. I cast one of these snook flies near a drainage pipe on one of these lakes, and BAM! I had a three-pound peacock on the first cast. I caught 30 within one hour. I hooked fish despite myself–If I missed a hookset, two or three other peacocks would be following behind to scoop up the fly. I went the next day at the same time and caught around 20, the biggest about five pounds.
These peacocks are the best freshwater fish I’ve ever challenged on my five-weight. They’re like smallmouth, only more aggressive, and they jump and somersault all over the place. Plus, I could fish for them for free–no need for a guide or a boat. I started bringing my five-weight whenever I traveled to South Florida. Then the cold snap hit, and I didn’t catch one for two years.
But this August, I tried again and, thankfully, the fish had come back. I didn’t catch any big ones. Most were scrappy little guys who went airborne but didn’t put a big bend in the rod. But they’re back. I can’t wait to get after them next year when these fish have more weight to them. As long as another cold snap doesn’t hit South Florida. Hoping, as I sit here in a blizzard.